"If Gilad Shalit is not released, Rafah crossing does not open," said Senior Defense Ministry Official Amos Gilad during an interview with Ynet on Wednesday night. Gilad is currently representing Israel in
talks negotiating the ceasefire with Hamas and
the other Gazan terror organizations in Egypt.
Gilad's statement validated an earlier statement made by the kidnapped soldier's father, Noam Shalit, according to which Israel's government had neglected his son during the negotiations of a truce. Shalit claimed that the opening of border crossings would cause Israel to lose leverage in the negotiations, therefore putting his son at risk.
However Gilad claimed he had no intention of allowing that to happen. "I think the ceasefire is the only way we may be able to bring about Shalit's release," he said, adding that the issue had been prioritized during his talks with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman in Cairo on Tuesday.
"During the last discussion we set aside a third of the time allotted to speak about Shalit, and we were adamant in demanding that his release be part of the agreement," Gilad said.
"The idea is to try to focus our efforts on releasing the soldier. My feeling is that a ceasefire would promote the release. This was the policy declared by the cabinet and I spoke about this to the Egyptians. Shalit is part of the ceasefire agreement."
During the interview Gilad also spoke about the opening of the Rafah crossing, saying that "this is a complex and difficult issue. We must remember that the opening of the crossing would be a kind of de-facto recognition of a Hamas state, because it would constitute the organization's first international border with Egypt.
"The opening of Rafah was an issue that came up during the agreement that was decided upon between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, the US, and the EU, which sent its inspectors. Thus this is a complicated process conditioned on progress being made in the Shalit deal."
Gilad described the conditions according to which the terror organizations were to be judged during the ceasefire. "We need a total ceasefire – all included. If tomorrow morning one single rocket is fired, it will be a violation of the agreement. There is no room for interpretation, and no mediating body is needed. We will not accept the firing of even one Qassam.
"Egypt, on its side, is committed to preventing the smuggling activity from Gaza. It's simple; Egypt has a border with Gaza, through which weapons and terrorists are smuggled. Smuggling is a serious violation of the terms. Any such infraction will lead to a change in Israel's stance from the way in which it was presented to the Egyptians," he said.
Like Prime Minister Ehud Olmert,
Gilad did not express much optimism regarding the success of the ceasefire, or the ceasing of terror, as he preferred to call it. "Hamas is a violent entity, a terrorist entity, which has taken upon itself to destroy the State of Israel. We know this, and they know this. I am a realistic man and so I won't talk about my feelings regarding the agreement on a lull. I recognize Hamas as a strategic threat to Israel.
"In the end it comes down to a choice between options," he continued. "If we had embarked on a military operation, we probably would have arrived at the same outcome; the ceasefire.
"Egypt's mediation solves Israel's urgent security needs, such as the halt in firing and smuggling. There is also a formula here for the promotion of Shalit's release. That's why the option is worthy of our attention. Meanwhile, the IDF is preparing for a military operation. If they don't stop the terror, the IDF will have to act," Gilad concluded.